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Monthly Marine Happy Headlines – May 2023

Welcome to our newest feature, Monthly Marine Happy Headlines!

Each month, we spotlight several marvellous marine discoveries, spreading ocean joy around the globe. From conservation success stories to empowering community action, the discovery of new species, and ground-breaking research articles,  join us for some ocean joy!

Headline 1 – Ecuador Strikes a Landmark Deal to Protect the Galápagos

It has been reported that Ecuador has agreed world’s biggest ‘debt for nature’ deal to protect the Galápagos Islands. 

But, what is a ‘debt for nature deal’? Typically, a debt for nature swaps are arranged to help governments fund conservation. They involve reducing debt alongside commitments to put money towards the protection of nature. Other countries which have undertaken this arrangement, e.g., Belize, Barbados and the Seychelles have found them beneficial. 

The country plans to start handing out conservation funding starting in September 2023 with the money going towards projects that combat climate change and overfishing, both of which which put pressure on the Galápagos ecosystem. 

In total, €1.5 billion of its existing debt, with the help of the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project and other partners was turned into a $656 million (€599 million) loan financed through a bond issued by global investment bank Credit Suisse.

Headline 2 – Over 5,000 new species discovered in Pacific deep-sea mining hotspot

As reported by The Guardian, a wealth of biodiversity has been found in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, an area earmarked for exploitation by mineral firms.

During the first ever environmental surveys of the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ), a mineral-rich area of the ocean floor that spans 1.7m sq miles between Hawaii and Mexico in the Pacific, scientists have discovered more than 5,000 new species living on the seabed.

This research will be critical in assessing the extinction risk of these species as contracts for deep-sea mining appear likely in the near future.

Headline 3 – England launches it’s first national Marine and Coastal Wildlife Code

The UK Government has launched England’s first-ever national Marine and Coastal Wildlife Code

The British Coastline is home to around 95% of Europe’s grey seal populations and 25% of Europe’s breeding seabirds. England is also currently developing the world’s longest coastal path, which will measure 2,700 miles when complete. 

However, as visitors rise, disturbance to our marine wildlife is rising and becoming increasingly dangerous. Statistics show that in times of high disturbance, only 25% of seal pups are likely to reach to the age of 18 months. 

This code, which was developed in collaboration with organisations including Whale and Dolphin Conservation, the RSPB, Shark Trust and Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust, will offer specific guidance around animals such as seabirds, seals, dolphins, sharks, and turtles. 

Headline 4 – Seals are making a comeback in Belgium

By the end of the last century, Belgium had witnessed a significant decline in seal populations. However, in positive news this year, seals are becoming an increasingly common sight on Belgium’s beaches once again! 

With numbers on the rise during the last 20 years, it is estimated that there are now between 100 and 200 individuals, from two different species: grey and harbour. 

One reasons for their resurgence may be because of COVID-19 – quiet beaches encouraged them to return. However, as restrictions eased, negative interactions with humans have increased. Consequently, Belgium established seal-only zones and introduced rules. Rules such as people must stay 30 metres away from the animals and obey the golden rule: they absolutely cannot feed them. 

In 2021, a spike in seal morality linked to fishing (gillnet) likely caused the death of a several dozen stranded seals. As a result, legislation was enacted to ban this kind of recreational fishing. In 2022, half as many dead seals washed up. Kelle Moreau, Marine Biologist and spokesperson for the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences said that is is proof that a change in legislation can work, and that cohabitation between humans and these marine mammals can be improved.

Headline 5 – Plastic pollution could be slashed by 80% by 2040 says United Nations

Reported by The Guardian, lobal plastic pollution could be slashed by 80% by 2040, according to a report from the UN Environment Programme (Unep). 

Plastic pollution has become one of the most pressing environmental issues. Plastic waste makes up 80% of all marine pollution and around 8 to 10 million metric tons of plastic end up in the ocean each year. It contaminates the entire planet, from Mount Everest to the deep ocean. We consume microplastics via the food we eat and air we breathe, with particles even food in a human’s blood and breast milk. Despite this, plastic production is set to triple by 2060. 

In March 2022, 193 countries agreed to end plastic pollution with negotiations on a legally binding agreement by 2024 underway. According to the UN, the first step is to eliminate unnecessary plastics, i.e. excessive packaging. Next, is to increase the use of reusable plastics, such as bottles, and to replace plastic items with greener alternatives.  If achieved, this shift would see plastic pollution drop to 40 m tons in 2040, as opposed to the estimated 227 m tons, if no action is taken. In addition to the health benefits, changes would also be worth trillions with regards to reducing the damage to the environment. 

The second round of negotiations started on the 29th May 2023 with Inger Andersen, Unep’s Executive Director, optimistic that a global deal could be reached in 2024. 

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